Report: Nippon-Ham Fighters Planning to Post Shohei Otani Next Season

Shohei Otani.

The name that has been the talk of Major League Baseball all offseason long. Despite talk of the Nippon-Ham Fighters possibly posting the two-way superstar, he will not be posted this offseason. Following the agreement of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement earlier this week, it appeared that Otani would not be posted until 2019, at the earliest.

That all changed with yesterday’s rather-surprising report out of Japan, that the Ham Fighters intend to post their two-way superstar next winter [via Twitter]. If Otani is indeed posted, he will immediately become one of the top free agents on the market next winter, likely to be pursued by just about every team in Major League Baseball.

Otani, 22, has established himself as a superstar over in Japan. However, he’s not your average Japanese baseball star. Otani has not only been making regular starts in Nippon’s outfield, but he’s also established himself as a top-of-the-rotation ace. Having caught the eye of Major League Baseball scouts for some time now, Otani reportedly gave thought to completely forgoing the NPB as a teenager, and making the jump to the MLB.

Last season, Otani hit .322/.416/.558 with 22 home runs, 67 RBIs, and seven stolen bases in 382 plate appearances. He also compiled a 10-3 record with a 1.86 ERA, 174 strikeouts, and four complete-games in 140 innings pitched. His success both at the plate, and off the mound, have led some to deem him the “Babe Ruth of Japan.” Otani’s pitching arsenal consists of four pitches, most notably a fastball that hovers around the mid-90s, yet tops out in the low-100s. He’s also displayed incredible power as a slugger from the left-side of the plate.

Given that Nippon has five more seasons of control over Otani before he can head to the United States on his own free volition, this is a somewhat surprising move. This report could strike up the question of whether Otani requested a posting next season, or not. Regardless, it should certainly make for interesting conversations come this time in 2017 [or early 2018].

Under the old CBA, international players were eligible for posting to Major League Baseball if they A) were 23 years-old, or B) played a minimum of five seasons in a recognized top league. The new CBA saw those requirements increase. The age-limit was increased to 25 years-old, and international players are required to play an additional year of international ball. It’ll be interesting to see how this particular situation is handled under the new CBA.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports posed the same question in the above tweet. In the tweet directly below, however, he seems to indicate that there could be ways around the new limitations implemented. 

This will be a situation that teams, and scouts will continue to monitor closely over the next 12 months. At the current moment though, it seems that next winter’s free agent class just got a whole lot more interesting.

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